Is Bond production design as good as it could be?

edited January 2015 in Bond Movies Posts: 9,851
One of the things that helped define the Bond series and set it apart from the competition were the distinctive, highly original production designs of Ken Adam. The later films either went for a more down to earth look and feel, or trotted out pale imitations of the Adam style. Dennis Glassner has arguably raised the bar a little, but do the Bond films really look as good as they could? Where is the innovation and era defining style/design that characterised the earlier films?

I am not at all opposed to the more character-driven, back to basics approach of the Craig era, but I just feel the sets are a little pedestrian/familiar. They're not bad, but not all that memorable either. A notable recent excpetion was perhaps's Silva's island, which I'd have liked to see more of. But then the next scene with the glass box just feels like a rip off from Silence of the Lambs.

I look at Guy Hendrix's work on Inception and Nathan Crowley's work on the Batman films and wonder why the Bond movies can't have a bit more of their flair and originality - and bring back a look and feel to the Bond movies that makes them really feel like they're at the cutting edge.
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Comments

  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,669
    I'm with you there. The last Bond to even have a touch of the old excellent style was GE, & even then only in spots. The PD of new Bonds could be Adam-esque without being crappy copies, but it'd take a real master, and that would take real $$'s.
  • edited March 2014 Posts: 9,851
    After SF, surely money is no object?

    I know it's widely commented on how much inspiration Nolan took from Bond for the Batman movies. And I think that really extends into his desire that the films be utterly stylish and stunning to watch - they're a sort of complete world, designed with a huge amount of passion.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,669
    Getafix wrote:
    After SF, surely money is no object?

    Well, I suppose. The PD for Crystal Skull was pretty flawlessly Jones all right, the actual photography & script are another matter. ;)
  • edited March 2014 Posts: 9,851
    chrisisall wrote:
    Getafix wrote:
    After SF, surely money is no object?

    Well, I suppose. The PD for Crystal Skull was pretty flawlessly Jones all right, the actual photography & script are another matter. ;)

    I've only ever seen about 5 minutes of that film and it involved a CGI volcano filling up with water, or something like that. I thought it looked awful. I'm always amazed by how bad CGI can be sometimes. Done badly just turns films into cartoons, as we Bond fans know only too well.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,669
    Getafix wrote:
    I've only ever seen about 5 minutes of that film and it involved a CGI volcano filling up with water, or something like that. I thought it looked awful.
    That was actually pretty good compared to the CGI monkeys earlier in the film.
    Good CGI is so difficult & expensive to do right. The cheap stuff can be done on your PC at home.
    I miss Derek Meddings...
  • RC7RC7
    Posts: 9,566
    In a word, no.

    I really miss the influence PD can have on the Bond films. It used to such a lynchpin of the series. Along with the score.
  • JWESTBROOKJWESTBROOK BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com
    edited March 2014 Posts: 5,746
    No. But we're close.

    When you look at the ideas in the production design presented in Skyfall, you get a since of the classical style of a Bond film. Note I said ideas. The London Underground.. er.. underground, glass mirror/window/door light maze, Komodo casino, glass cage metaphor with the scorpion under the liquor glass, and Silva's island are all very classic Bond ideas. I'd argue budget crippled their execution, specifically with Silva's island and the Komodo casino.


    Skyfall also came close with the burning house at the end. But in a sense that a Bond movie had artistic flair and style, and looked unique and instantly recognizable as the Bond movie it is. Fire in the background: Craig. Daytime: Quantum of Solace; Nightime: Skyfall. But that came more with the cinematography in the final act, and less the production design.

    So we end where I began: We're close. As close as we've been since Goldeneye, as @chrisisall said.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,669
    Yes, SF was visually quite impressive. I'd agree that it's going in a better direction. Let's hope the next one makes it all the way.
  • QBranchQBranch Always have an escape plan. Mine is watching James Bond films.
    Posts: 7,076
    I am of two minds about the production design. I think, as @JWestbrook pointed out, the Shanghai building reflections were a highlight of SF, as well as the fallen statues on Silva's island, which go back to GE's statue park. On the other hand, I really do miss that Ken Adam style- although, one then runs the risk of making them too outlandish for Craig's tenure. QOS' hotel in the desert had flecks of Adam's design in there, but blink and you'll miss it. For example, those circular lights in its ceiling with the grid patterns overlayed seemed to be inspired by the ceiling in DN where Dent picks up the spider. Also, giant holes that open up (exhaust chamber, and the helicopter entrance to both the volcano lair and meditation retreat in LTK) could've inspired the Tosca eye opening up. However, I think there is still room for more imaginative sets, without parodying itself.
  • RC7RC7
    Posts: 9,566
    QBranch wrote:
    However, I think there is still room for more imaginative sets, without parodying itself.

    Agreed. The difficulty is that a lot of the great Adam sets would be half-cgi were they built today. Part of the thrill of Bond was seeing these lavishly constructed spaces, even if they were only used fleetingly. They gave Bond a distinct aesthetic. I do think that Gassner seems to be moving towards that aesthetic, we've seen glimpses, but at the end of the day it comes down to Mendes/Logan providing the opportunities and allowing him to let loose, and B&M finding the cash to facilitate it.
  • Posts: 9,851
    RC7 wrote: »
    QBranch wrote:
    However, I think there is still room for more imaginative sets, without parodying itself.

    Agreed. The difficulty is that a lot of the great Adam sets would be half-cgi were they built today. Part of the thrill of Bond was seeing these lavishly constructed spaces, even if they were only used fleetingly. They gave Bond a distinct aesthetic. I do think that Gassner seems to be moving towards that aesthetic, we've seen glimpses, but at the end of the day it comes down to Mendes/Logan providing the opportunities and allowing him to let loose, and B&M finding the cash to facilitate it.

    Totally agree that real sets are important . SF largely delivered on that front - I just didn't think the interiors were all that inspired. Gassner doesn't seem able to deliver those fantastical but still plausible sets that Adam excelled at. There is a surreal quality to so many of Adams sets - exaggerated perspectives, modern mixed with antique. As with Barry, Adams absence has been sorely felt.
  • Posts: 9,851
    QBranch wrote: »
    I am of two minds about the production design. I think, as @JWestbrook pointed out, the Shanghai building reflections were a highlight of SF, as well as the fallen statues on Silva's island, which go back to GE's statue park. On the other hand, I really do miss that Ken Adam style- although, one then runs the risk of making them too outlandish for Craig's tenure. QOS' hotel in the desert had flecks of Adam's design in there, but blink and you'll miss it. For example, those circular lights in its ceiling with the grid patterns overlayed seemed to be inspired by the ceiling in DN where Dent picks up the spider. Also, giant holes that open up (exhaust chamber, and the helicopter entrance to both the volcano lair and meditation retreat in LTK) could've inspired the Tosca eye opening up. However, I think there is still room for more imaginative sets, without parodying itself.

    The hotel in the desert is also a real building - although the interiors are obviously sets.
  • Posts: 5,953
    I have moved this from General Discussion (which is non Bond) and in to Bond Movies. Good idea for a thread :-)
  • Posts: 1,146
    Let's hope that with a picture with the title of Spectre, that there might be more spectacle involved. I also think that an element of…I'm gonna write 'weirdness', is also needed in a Bond film, like the bleeding eye in CR or Nic Nac, for example.
  • Posts: 9,851
    Let's hope that with a picture with the title of Spectre, that there might be more spectacle involved. I also think that an element of…I'm gonna write 'weirdness', is also needed in a Bond film, like the bleeding eye in CR or Nic Nac, for example.

    I agree. I am not an expert on Fleming but the surreal and downright weird do seem to be characteristics of his novels. It's one of the reasons I am not as attached to 'realism' in Bond as some others.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2015 Posts: 22,491
    Totally agree. They are going back to these elements slowly without going over the top, and it's a fine line.

    I don't think one needs to recreate the grandiose sets of Ken Adam's days though. It might be too cost prohibitive anyway to do it anymore without b.s. CGI, and I'd rather they did not CGI the set. So either do it with a model, create it or don't do it at all.

    My view is you could bring in Bondian elements without the massive sets. As an example, as has already been mentioned, the TOSCA eye bit in QoS, the hotel in QoS, the SF Shanghai bit, Silva's HQ....all of these gave me throwback feelings.

    As I just said on another thread, the last best finale for me was GE, and I really felt that movie had the kind of larger than life finale that had been absent since MR, and which I really missed.

    I agree also that it would be nice to have some post-modern style set from time to time. That's a Ken Adam staple I do miss. Less is more. I think QoS's hotel got closest. Adam is an architect I think, and he might have been inspired by Le Corbusier.

    I agree also that villains should have some 'wierdness' or quirkiness.
  • Posts: 1,146
    I disagree to an extent, think there's a balance between the real and the weird. You need the grounded reality, then the strange elements really stand out. If everyone is bleeding out their eyes, it changes the context completely. To me. Le Chiffre stood out so much and made the strange a stronger element in the story, as in Goldeneye for example.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 22,491
    I agree that it's a fine line. I found Silva's jaw just on the borderline of crossing into camp (although I enjoyed seeing it). Thought the bleeding eye was more realistic.
  • Posts: 1,146
    I…liked the jaw gag better, than you did, but agree that the bleeding eye was just surreal enough to effectively help the story.
  • edited January 2015 Posts: 9,851
    Oh I am not saying it should all be OTT weirdness. Fleming grounds the weirdness in realism, but it's the fantastical weirdness that makes it uniquely Fleming. I think the early Connery films captured this brilliantly in terms of casting, scripts, production designs and music.
  • edited January 2015 Posts: 9,851
    bondjames wrote: »
    Totally agree. They are going back to these elements slowly without going over the top, and it's a fine line.

    I don't think one needs to recreate the grandiose sets of Ken Adam's days though. It might be too cost prohibitive anyway to do it anymore without b.s. CGI, and I'd rather they did not CGI the set. So either do it with a model, create it or don't do it at all.

    My view is you could bring in Bondian elements without the massive sets. As an example, as has already been mentioned, the TOSCA eye bit in QoS, the hotel in QoS, the SF Shanghai bit, Silva's HQ....all of these gave me throwback feelings.

    As I just said on another thread, the last best finale for me was GE, and I really felt that movie had the kind of larger than life finale that had been absent since MR, and which I really missed.

    I agree also that it would be nice to have some post-modern style set from time to time. That's a Ken Adam staple I do miss. Less is more. I think QoS's hotel got closest. Adam is an architect I think, and he might have been inspired by Le Corbusier.

    I agree also that villains should have some 'wierdness' or quirkiness.

    Adam was not an architect but he did study architecture at the Bartlett at UCL in London. Alexander Korda I think told him that a background in architecture was the ideal foundation for production design.

    Adam was undoubtedly influenced by the great modernist architects like Corb and Frank Lloyd Wright. His parents had commissioned Mies Van der Rohe to design their new shop in Berlin before they were forced to flee the Nazis.

    I daresay though that Adam has influenced far more architects than he himself has taken influence from!
  • Posts: 1,146
    I had the pleasure/honor of meeting Mr Adam once, on the Addams family sequel. Nice fellow.
  • Posts: 9,851
    I had the pleasure/honor of meeting Mr Adam once, on the Addams family sequel. Nice fellow.

    Nice. He is a legend. He had a side career as an RAF fighter pilot during WW2. The only German born RAF fighter pilot in the war I think. Pretty amazing guy.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2015 Posts: 22,491
    I had the pleasure/honor of meeting Mr Adam once, on the Addams family sequel. Nice fellow.

    That is a real privilege. One of a select group of people absolutely at the top of their game during the early James Bond years, along with Barry, Binder, Bassey, & Young.

  • Posts: 1,068
    Personally I feel the production design could be a whole lot better! There hasn't been a set with a wow factor about it for too long in the Bond series which used to give a larger than life impact - I really miss the amazing escapism to a grand new world with visually stunning scenes. Where can you start from such a rich collection that we must all know and love; there's the obviously amazing YOLT volcano, TSWLM's bowels of Liparus & Atlantis, MR's Amazon Drax hideaway or even Goldfinger's Ranch meeting hall or condo in DAF.

    In recent times I do struggle a bit and can only think of the Russian/Cuban control centres in GE, the DAD Ice Palace and the QOS desert hideaway. It never seems like they're bothered to really let their hair down at Pinewood's huge Soundstage. I am nervous about CGI taking over but it's getting so damned good all the time so I wouldn't discount it out of hand. Nothing beats the reality of lighting and natural subtleties of filming the real thing, even if it is a scale model - I never expected Atlantis to be real although the helicopter landing pod was and the captured submarines blew me away in the day!!

    For Spectre, I really hope they pull out the stops to create an amazing hideaway befitting ESB as there's been a big part of Bond missing for me in the recent films.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2015 Posts: 22,491
    andmcit wrote: »
    For Spectre, I really hope they pull out the stops to create an amazing hideaway befitting ESB as there's been a big part of Bond missing for me in the recent films.

    I do agree. My disappointment with the finale and villain's lairs began with FYEO and continued until GE. I really liked the GE lair and thought we were going back to the old days. Then it disappeared again (I don't count DAD as that was a CGI crapfest).

    I'm worried about CGI as mentioned, and costs, but as you said, they should at least try for SP.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 22,491
    "Getafix wrote: »
    Adam was not an architect but he did study architecture at the Bartlett at UCL in London. Alexander Korda I think told him that a background in architecture was the ideal foundation for production design.

    Adam was undoubtedly influenced by the great modernist architects like Corb and Frank Lloyd Wright. His parents had commissioned Mies Van der Rohe to design their new shop in Berlin before they were forced to flee the Nazis.

    I daresay though that Adam has influenced far more architects than he himself has taken influence from!

    I knew I read there was some connection betwen Adam & architecture somewhere.

    My dad was an architect, so I grew up looking at all the photos of designs in the books he had in his library. When seeing the early Bonds for the first time, I definitely noticed similarities between both Le Corbusier's work, the Bauhaus school and Adam's sets, so I'm not surprised by the Van der Rohe connection. A sort of minimalist approach.

    I'm not so sure that his set designs would necessarily work so well with today's public though. It does seem very 60's.
  • edited January 2015 Posts: 9,851
    bondjames wrote: »
    "Getafix wrote: »
    Adam was not an architect but he did study architecture at the Bartlett at UCL in London. Alexander Korda I think told him that a background in architecture was the ideal foundation for production design.

    Adam was undoubtedly influenced by the great modernist architects like Corb and Frank Lloyd Wright. His parents had commissioned Mies Van der Rohe to design their new shop in Berlin before they were forced to flee the Nazis.

    I daresay though that Adam has influenced far more architects than he himself has taken influence from!

    I knew I read there was some connection betwen Adam & architecture somewhere.

    My dad was an architect, so I grew up looking at all the photos of designs in the books he had in his library. When seeing the early Bonds for the first time, I definitely noticed similarities between both Le Corbusier's work, the Bauhaus school and Adam's sets, so I'm not surprised by the Van der Rohe connection. A sort of minimalist approach.

    I'm not so sure that his set designs would necessarily work so well with today's public though. It does seem very 60's.

    Yes very much of their time but that is inevitable and part of their charm. I think the amazing thing about him is that he clearly could have been a successful architect in his own right. He had genuine architectural ability - no doubt partly thanks to his training. As a consequence the buildings and spaces he imagined are not just fantastical - they are beautiful, original, plausible and make you believe they could really exist. That is very rare in a production designer. I don't see the same ability in Dennis Gassner.

    I've wondered what would happen if EON worked with an actual contemporary architect - say Zaha Hadid or David Chipperfield - to create specially designed sets for Bond. They've essentially done this with Aston Martin on the DB10. I think it could be really amazing.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited January 2015 Posts: 22,491
    Getafix wrote: »
    I've wondered what would happen if EON worked with an actual contemporary architect - say Zaha Hadid or David Chipperfield - to create specially designed sets for Bond. They've essentially done this with Aston Martin on the DB10. I think it could be really amazing.

    I'd love to see this too. The problem I think would be 'getting your money's' worth, so to say. With production costs rocketing and how expensive it is to make a set these days, along with the prevalence of CGI, it might be too much to hope for, as economically it might not make sense as an investment.

    I think it could only work if the set was used for a relatively long part of the movie or was a substantial part. The Silva HQ only had a few minutes of screen time for example, so it wouldn't have been worth it there. something like the Volcano lair in YOLT had quite a bit of screen prescence, so it could work there. Or if there is a set that continues to reappear, say in multiple Bond movies, then it could make sense too.

    I think the QoS hotel was the closest we got recently to something Adam-like, and for me, it worked in that movie.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Dancing at midnight under the BeBop Moon
    Posts: 10,549
    For me, I am really rather satisfied with the production design, the whole quality of it, since Craig's tenure. I thought Skyfall was wonderfully done, and the think SPECTRE will give us a stronger showcase for production design. Skyfall's scope was smaller (only London and Scotland, with the amazing shots of Shanghai). It will be a bigger film in some ways, especially visually.
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